Think Progress (July 26, 2018)

California wildfire survivors fear officials will shift utilities’ financial liability to them

California residents who live in regions hardest hit by the state’s 2017 wildfires are growing concerned that Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers are caving in to pressure from electric utilities that are lobbying to get the state to change its liability laws.

Residents fear electric utilities, whose equipment and infrastructure caused many of the fires last year, will get a free pass on paying for the wildfire damage. On Tuesday, Brown released a proposal that would ease the potential wildfire-related financial burdens on the state’s investor-owned electric utilities by making customers, instead of the company’s investors, pay for a large portion of the costs.

Patrick McCallum, president of a lobbying firm in Sacramento, California that is representing a coalition of wine country fire victims called Up From the Ashes, criticized the governor’s proposed legislation a “non-starter.”

“It sacrifices the rights of property owners to protect the utilities… from any responsibility for future damages,” McCallum said on the conference call. “And it does not adequately create a prevention standard so these horrible disasters that we faced don’t happen again.”
— Think Progress, July 26, 2018